When I went off to college and started “living on my own” I found that I inadvertently adopted many of my parents’ customs, beliefs, rituals, etc. To this day I still use a rag to wash dishes even though a sponge is more convenient. I refuse to buy parmigiana cheese from the grocery store. And my perk coffee pot, for some unknown reason, is the lone exception to the rule that, “Everything, if touched, needs to be washed.” Like my mom does, I just rinse it out with lukewarm water and use it again the next day, the logic being “Why wash it If you’re only going to put more coffee in it the next day?” which is bizarre considering my mom washes the phone with Lysol and scrubs her vegetables with a product called Wash ‘Dem Veggies.
One of the more unfortunate hand-me-downs is a hatred for Halloween. My mom, sporting an irrational contempt for the holiday, used to pay my sister and I $20 a piece to not celebrate Halloween. She would buy us a couple bags of candy, give us our cash and treat it like any other Tuesday night. To this day I’m not sure why exactly she hated it so much. Maybe it was the scary movies with uneven plots, or the fussing with the costumes or the embarrassment of asking neighbors she didn’t like to give her kids candy. Or maybe it was the paralyzing fear that we would die from tainted candy given to us by malicious neighbors, hell-bent on taking out children who dare to extort candy from them with the ultimatum “trick-or-treat.” (This ultimatum was discussed at length by my friends and I the other night, the question being, “Why is it trick-or-treat instead of treat-or-trick, as in, “Give me a treat or I’ll trick you?” We concluded that it is merely a difference of intent, as in, “Give me the money or I stab you,” or, “I’ll stab you if you don’t give me the money.” In the former case your goal is to obtain the treat, without having to resort to a trick. In the latter, you are really a violent criminal who is determined to stab someone tonight, whether or not they give up the candy. Anyway . . .)
The few times we did go trick-or-treating as kids, we would return home, empty out our pails and immediately my mom would throw away anything that was unwrapped or homemade. She would then proceed to cut each piece of candy in half looking for poisonous needles. (Not just regular needles, I remember that distinctly. “Poisonous needles,” said to reinforce the fact that these people weren’t out to just hurt us, they were out to KILL US.) By age nine she had us so paranoid that eating the candy was an act of courage instead of an enjoyable time. My sister and I would hesitate, looking at each other with wide eyes before putting a Kit Kat in our mouths as if to say, “If I start choking, you know what to do!”
$20 and the promise of untainted candy became a blessing in the coming years. The only thing we really gave up in the deal was the costumes, which wasn’t a big loss really because I always had to wear a winter coat if I went trick-or-treating anyway. Meaning from the waist down I was a ninja / tiger / hockey player but from the waist up I was always just a kid in a wool coat. I would unzip my jacket before ringing another doorbell, trying to show them that I was a grim reaper, not a boy in a evening gown; but the effect was always lost.
So it was no surprise that my Halloween celebration this weekend consisted of a gathering of friends at my apartment, with only one of us in costume – my friend Scott who pulled off a spot on Robert Goulet. (The Girlfriend tried on the mustache at one point in the night. Thankfully I was out of room at the time, because from all the screams of, “OH GOD TAKE THAT OFF! TAKE IT OFF GOD!” I’m assuming it wasn’t a pretty sight.)
What WAS surprising, however, was that somehow the night turned into a round-table discussion on the misappropriation of punishment and lack of continuing legal action for convicted sex offenders; leading to one of the more unforeseeable moments of my life when Robert Goulet showed me how to use the [terrifying] sex offenders website to see all of the convicted rapists and sodomists in my area. The girlfriend became addicted to the site, sitting in front of the computer for half an hour, sipping her vodka/soda, her eyes glued to the screen. Every so often you would hear her scream, “Oh man! Look at this one!” and everyone would rush to the computer to gawk at a picture of Rapey McSex Offender as though he was an Agent Orange victim.
Then the night broke down into the usual “loud sing-a-long / let’s go get pizza,” leading to a hilarious encounter between my drunken, belligerent friend James and what appeared to be a slutty nurse. As we are crossing the street, Slutty Nurse is getting into a cab and James, for some reason seeing not a nurse but a bellhop screams, “Hey, Slutty Bellhop! Get me my bags!” I can only imagine this girl for the rest of the night asking her friends every ten minutes, “Are you sure I don’t look like a bellhop?”
In conclusion, I may not be an expert on Halloween, but here’s my suggestion – if you want something scary to do tonight to commemorate the holiday, forget the horror movies and Ouija board. Find some potentially dangerous candy, log on to the sex offenders website and refer to at least one girl you encounter as “Slutty Bellhop.” It’s a genuinely good time.
And carve a pumpkin because that’s fun too.